The tulip tree is the tallest of the eastern North American deciduous trees -- often well over 150 feet, though 70 to 90 feet is more common. It has been widely planted as an ornamental tree throughout North America and in Europe. It has a stately grace equaled by few other trees.
Description of tulip tree: This tree is fast-growing in youth, taking on a pyramidal form. Later it slows down considerably, eventually developing a rounded head. It tends to develop a tall trunk that sheds old branches as it grows, leaving branches only at the top, especially in a forest setting. The leaves of the tulip tree are unmistakable, looking like someone had cut the top off a maple leaf with scissors. They are deciduous and dark green with a polished appearance, turning yellow in fall. The fragrant flowers, produced in spring, are large, tulip-shaped, and greenish yellow with orange markings inside. Unfortunately, they are generally borne so high that they can scarcely be seen.
Growing tulip tree: Rich, moist, well-drained soils and full sun to light shade are ideal for this tree. It prefers a slightly acid soil but is quite adaptable. Give it plenty of root room.
Uses for tulip tree: The tulip tree makes a large specimen tree for parks and large properties. Although often planted as a street tree, it is not really a good choice for this purpose, having little resistance to pollution and soil compaction. Furthermore, its branches tend to be subject to breakage. It has few problems with insects or disease, although aphids may feed on the leaves in summer.
Tulip tree related species: The Chinese tulip tree (L. chinense) is a little known but similar tree of medium size, a good choice for small lots.
Tulip tree related varieties: There is a pyramidal version of the tulip tree (L. tulipifera Fastigiatum) that makes a good choice wherever horizontal space is at a premium.
Scientific name of tulip tree: Liriodendron Tulipifera